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Thursday, October 10, 2013 - University leaders reflect on OU's past, look to future
Story by Katie Land, news editor
Video by Jason Willis, interactive media specialist

Former OU President Donald O'Dowd and Interim President Betty Youngblood. 
It was a moment for the history books when two dedicated Oakland University leaders met on the school’s ever-expanding campus this October, to reminisce about the past and look forward to the future.

Interim President Betty Youngblood welcomed former university president Donald O’Dowd – yes, that O’Dowd – to OU this week, to remember the early days of the university and to tour the in-process construction projects.

While their meeting is unique, this is not the first time the two administrators’ paths have crossed. When O’Dowd served as an Oakland faculty member and administrator in the 1960s, Youngblood was a student. A Macomb County native, Youngblood first arrived at Oakland as an undergraduate in 1962, earning her bachelor's degree as a member of one of the first classes of students in 1965.

“Everyone here at that time was bound together by that very unique and compelling experience – by the birth of a university,” Youngblood remembered. “We are certainly grateful for that foundation to create a university that has allowed us to evolve as we have. In my situation to be serving as interim president, this is absolutely the greatest honor of my career.”

The pair of presidents remembered the early days of OU – when there were only a handful of buildings – and shared anecdotes from O’Dowd’s work with Oakland's first chancellor Woody Varner to bring independence to the university. View the video of the university leaders’ meeting below.

Since those early days at Oakland, Youngblood has held a variety of leadership positions at universities across the country, including serving as vice chancellor and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Superior, president of Western Oregon University, and president of Lake Superior State University. Youngblood returned to her alma mater in 2011 to take up the post of Associate Vice President for Outreach and Executive Director of OU-Macomb. She was named interim president in 2013.

O’Dowd joined what was known as Michigan State University – Oakland (MSU-O) as an associate professor of psychology in 1960. As a faculty member, O’Dowd played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Department of Psychology and programs in the social sciences. In 1970, O’Dowd was appointed the first president of the independent Oakland University by its charter board of trustees, and served through 1979, when he was designated president emeritus. O’Dowd Hall is named in his honor.

“My orientation as a president was to create an environment where students can learn and faculty can teach and do research,” O’Dowd said. “That's what a university is about. There are all kinds of other things that universities do that are interesting. But the basic thing is learning and teaching. If you can create the setting where those things can happen, everything else will take care of itself.”

“This institution made a tremendous difference in my life. Many efforts of the faculty and staff make certain students succeed right from day number one, that is our first priority and it always has been.”

Oakland University is a vibrant academic community with more than 20,000 students and more than 260 degree and certificate programs. To learn more about academics, achievements, and events at OU, visit the news site at and follow the news team on Twitter at @OaklandU_News.